1: The Meet Cute

1920 Words
  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *   P R E S E N T   D A Y   NEW YORK CITY   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *   [ K A R A ]     "I can't believe you're getting married to a man you barely even know, you've only known him for 3 months!" I said, stomping off to the kitchen with my dirty plates.   "But I've never felt this way before, honey. This time it's for real, I just know it," mom followed right behind me.   "That's what you said about the last— I don't know how many men, Lacey,"   "Hey, you're walking on thin ice right now Kara. And I am not Lacey, I'm your mother," She said rather sternly.   Yeah, maybe I'll call you that when you start acting like one, I thought to myself. That sounded super catty and I wouldn't say it out loud, of course. No matter how much I disagreed with my mom's decision to get married so suddenly, I would not hurt her feelings like that.   Something that you should know about my mom, she was only 16 when she had me. She had to drop out of high school and became a single mother. My father was never around from the beginning. He'd sent checks from time to time, but he had never appeared in my life.   Since then, mom struggled to raise me on her own in New York City. She managed to get her GED and attended college, and eventually, she became a flight attendant. I learned many things from watching my mother's life story. Number One: I must be a strong and independent woman who could stand on her own two feet. And Number Two: men cannot be trusted. Period.   My mom had many, many boyfriends. She had dated doctors, lawyers, bankers, waiters, personal trainers, married doctors, married lawyers — you name it. I couldn't keep track. But none of these men ended up staying around. And watching so many men broke my mother's heart so many times, I had made an important decision, I focused myself on my schooling and vowed to practice abstinence until marriage.   I believed I made the right choice. This year, I turned eighteen and I just graduated as valedictorian from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, I earned a full ride to Columbia University, and I never got my heart broken — not even once.   Funnily enough, I thought that I would be able to spend my last summer before college peacefully with my mom. I thought of getting a part time job to make some extra cash, or to fill my time by visiting the library, or maybe the museums, or watching some Broadway play together. But all that plan went down the toilet when Lacey over here suddenly announced that she was getting hitched to a man named Peter, whom she met while on a layover in Hawaii, three months ago.   I only knew three things about this Peter guy. One, he was a widowed man in his mid 40s. Two, he owned his own business, something about boats, in the island of Kauai. And three, he had a son about a year older than me.   "Mom, are you sure about this?” I asked her again. “I mean, I get that you date a lot. But this is a marriage, not just some Sunday picnic at Central Park,"   "Kara, baby," she said, taking my hand. "I know my track record hasn't been very clean. And I know you're worried about me. But honey, I have been waiting for sooo long for a man like Peter to come into my life. He makes me very, very happy,"   I looked at the sincerity in my mother's face and my heart gave up. Like it or not, my mother was the only family I had. Grandma used to come around here a lot, but for the past few years, she was getting sick and she could barely leave her house. I was all that my mom had left and I knew I had to support her decision, no matter what.   "So, you're really going to get married, in August?" I said finally with a defeated sigh.   "Yup. It's going to be a sweet little wedding in Hawaii, just some family and friends," she chirped happily.   "And you're moving to live with him there?"   "Yes,"   "Which means, when I go back to New York for college in September, I'll be living on my own?"   "Baby, you're 18, you're in college, and you're the greatest daughter I know, you'll be fine," she smiled brightly as she cupped my cheeks.   "It's not me I'm worried about," I scoffed as I started doing the dishes. “I'm gonna miss living with you, you know," I added, in an almost whisper.   "Aw, me too, baby," she replied. "That's why you need to come with me to Hawaii and help me plan my wedding. Come on, Kara, it'll be fun. You've never been to Hawaii, it's so nice out there, full of sunshine, and the beach, and the boys—"   "Mom," I cut her off.   "Okay, not the boys. But Hawaii: the beach, the sun, the ocean, you'll love it. And it will be our last summer together before you move on to college,"   "And you move on to your new life," I rolled my eyes.   "Ah come on, baby. Come to Hawaii with me," she threw her arms around me and spoke as if she was a five-year-old kid. Sometimes I wondered that maybe I was the mother and Lacey was my child.   "Fine," I sighed. "But, I'm not gonna be enjoying this,"   Mom screamed in happiness and hugged me tighter. I simply rolled my eyes in annoyance. I was still convinced that this was a bad idea, but there was nothing else I could do.   "Oh, the things I do for my family,"     * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *   KAUAI, HAWAII   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *     Things went from zero to a hundred real quick. Within a week from that day, mom made me pack my things and she got us complimentary tickets from the airlines, and the next thing I knew, we were flying to Hawaii.   Throughout the whole plane ride, my mom would not stop blabbing about how great things were in Hawaii compared to New York City, how great of a man Peter was, and how excited she was for the next chapter of their lives. I gave my mom the occasional nod, but I was mostly quiet, unimpressed.   To be honest, I was a bit hurt that my mom made it look so easy to just leave thousands of miles away, leaving me on my own. First, my dad left, grandma got sick, and now my mom was leaving me... I'm going to end up forever alone in this world, aren't I?   Darn you abandonment issues.     * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *     After 10 hours of flying and listening to my mom’s incessant talking, we finally arrived in the island and met my soon-to-be stepdad, Peter. He picked us up at the airport and Lacey could not stop ogling him. I didn't get her fascination with him. He was just your typical 40-something year old man who wore polo shirts and khakis. But sure, he seemed nice enough.   As we drove away from the airport, I rested my head by the car’s window and let my gaze wander out aimlessly. I saw a glimpse of the ocean, the rows of coconut trees, and how the sun was radiating this warm orange hue. It was truly a beautiful sight, and it wasn't even time for the sunset yet.   Okay, I had to admit it, Hawaii was beautiful and warm. But I was petty and I had promised myself that I wasn't going to be enjoying this. So yeah. I would just be quiet and stay out of everyone's way.   I couldn't wait for this summer to be over so I could be in college already.     * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *     "We're here!" Peter's voice suddenly woke me up from my daydreaming.   I didn’t realize that we had been driving around for a while. The car had come to a halt and we arrived in front of a homey-looking two-story house with all kinds of trees and flowers growing on the front lawn. As I got off the car, my eyes were scanning the entire house and they stopped in front of a small garage on the side.   The garage door suddenly flew open, and there emerged a guy, about my age, or maybe a bit older. He was shirtless, only wearing some board shorts that hung lowly on his hips. His body was lean but muscular, with tattoos everywhere. He also had that perfect tan, and his hair was dirty blonde and messy. He looked up to see Peter, then Lacey, and then his eyes stopped at me. He caught me looking at him, and I automatically froze awkwardly, not knowing what to do.   "And this is Ryder, my son," Peter announced.   The air suddenly felt dry and I just realized that I had been holding my breath for some time now.   Breathe woman, exhale!   "...Or you can call him Ry for short," Peter added.   "Hey," Ryder said, still not breaking his gaze from me.   "Hi, Ryder! I've heard so much about you, nice to finally meet you, this is my daughter, Kara," Lacey walked over and shook Ryder's hands.   Mom and Ryder turned to me as if they were waiting for me to say something, but it seemed that my body had forgotten its entire motor skills at this point.   Say something, dummy! Say hi back!   I was yelling to myself internally, but there were no words coming out.   "Ry, come help the girls with their bags," Peter yelled from the back of the car as he busily started moving our bags.   "Sure thing," Ryder replied and strode over to his father.   I couldn't bring myself to say anything, yet my eyes were following his every move. He raised an eyebrow at me and let out a small laugh. And as he walked towards the back of the car, our eyes met again and Ryder gave me a wild smile. That boyish smile. And I knew that smile. That smile meant trouble.   Oh, fudgesicles!   *   *   *   - - - - - To Be Continued - - - - -    
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